10 Best Dive Bars in San Francisco

Providing a list of the ten best dive bars in San Francisco is like trying to name the best pizza places in New York: There are just too many. San Francisco is a dive bar kind of town, with tons of hole-in-the-wall pubs that have the classic dive-bar attributes—cheap beer, great jukebox, an unassuming air and the chance that you may have a stain on the back of your pants when you stand up.

  1. Zeitgeist. When you walk in to this corner bar—that looks only fit for bikers—you automatically feel cramped. Tables fill out most of the space, with a pool table that leads to many a-cue-in-the-ribs on the way to the bathroom or jukebox. But slide up to the old wooden bar, order a pitcher and walk out the door to your right for a slice of heaven: a gigantic backyard outdoor space, with row after row of picnic tables.
  2. Ha-Ra Club. The famously crabby bartender may toss you out like the Soup Nazi, but before he does, make sure to have a cheap beer and get in a game on the red felt pool table. Just avoid the unisex bathrooms, which smell like a Port-A-Potty.
  3. Lucky 13. There are a lot of bars near the busy intersection of Church and Market, but Lucky 13 is the curdled cream of the crop. Free popcorn, cold cans of PBR, two separate balconies that look down on the craziness and the most infamous photo booth in San Francisco make it an experience you can't miss.
  4. 83 Proof. You could walk past this unassuming pub, with nothing but a large window and the address "83" outside, without noticing it if it weren't for the crowd of patrons spilling out on the sidewalk at happy hour. While the fancy fixtures and new furniture don't scream dive bar, you can still get a cheap beer and meet "interesting" residents of the nearby Transbay Terminal. If Sky is manning the plank, order a basil gimlet while you experience the best bar in the Financial District.
  5. Edinburgh Castle Pub. This grimy Tenderloin mainstay offers a wealth of possibilities. Feel hungry? Order up a basket of fish and chips. Want to dance? Head to the club upstairs. Need a distraction? Hit up the legendary dart boards. Feel like proving your knowledge? Their Tuesday night trivia contests are known throughout the Bay Area. Just want to drink? Pull up a stool …
  6. Wild Side West. No list of San Francisco dive bars would be complete without at least one gay bar, but this Bernal Heights institution offers a twist: It's most popular with lesbians. All are welcome, however, and the outdoor area rivals Zeitgeist's as a great place to people-watch
  7. Dave's. If you're in the Financial District and 83 Proof is too crowded for you, dip into this tiny bar to catch a Giants game on the TV, eat a chili dog and meet some of the best regulars in town. It may take awhile to get a drink, but that's because the bartender is actually chatting with a customer; don't worry, you'll get an interesting conversation, too.
  8. Broken Record. A great place to get some cheap booze, especially when they offer up 50-cent PBRs on Saturdays, but the main draw here is some of the best bar food in S.F. Snack on some fried broccoli or order up one of their awesome burgers.
  9. Bender's. You may have to pay a cover to get in if there is a band playing, but the cheap canned beers will make up for it. Even better: They actually use an old-school can opener to put an extra hole in the top to make the Tecate or PBR go down faster.
  10. Mission Bar. A classic dive bar, with ripped leather on the booth seats, surly bartenders and a great jukebox. This is the perfect place to start your bar-hopping night in the Mission District.
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